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Female athlete stretching, data and facts in the background

This blog post recaps the second webinar in the 4‑part Engaging Girls and Women in Sport mini-series. SIRC and Canadian Women & Sport co-hosted the mini-series, which you can access and learn more about by visiting our SIRC Expert Webinars page.

With the rise of big data and analytics, organizations across all industries are looking to use data when making decisions. There are many reasons why sport organizations may want to collect and use data. For example, data can help plan quality sport programs with gender equity at the centre. In this blog, we highlight the key takeaways from our discussion with academics and sport leaders on the importance of data collection to design and improve programs.

For many people, the idea of working with data can be intimidating. Canadian Women & Sport created Same Game as one way to make people more comfortable with data. Same Game is a free, online, step-by-step toolkit to help sport leaders use data to turn gender equity ideas into reality.

The 7 steps in the Same Game toolkit form a circular cycle, with the goal at the centre being to create buy-in for bringing gender equity visions to life.
Step 1: Vision
Step 2: Collect data
Step 3: Plan
Step 4: Communicate targets
Step 5: Build capacity
Step 6: Implement
Step 7: Reflect and revise


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Introducing the toolkit, webinar panelist Shannon Kerwin, a Brock University researcher with the E-Alliance Gender and Equity in Sport Research Hub, explained that it breaks down the process into 7 steps. The toolkit begins with a vision to help organizations understand their “why,” then moves on to data collection, planning, communicating targets, building capacity, implementation, and, finally, reflection and revision to make lasting and impactful change.

The other 2 panelists, Paula McKenzie and Crystal Watson, shared their experiences with using the Same Game toolkit. McKenzie, the executive director of one of the largest track and field clubs in Canada, Caltaf athletic association, explained the framework of 4D’s: Discovery, Data collection, Detailed planning or implementation, and “Down-the-road” thinking.

Then Watson, a volunteer board member with the Alberta Sport Development Centre, shared her experiences of collecting data through a province-wide study with over 400 high-school participants. Both Watson and McKenzie emphasized that the toolkit was user-friendly and designed to help organizations navigate the complex world of data.

Why is data collection important?

  1. Data informs effective decision-making

Data helps you look at a situation objectively. It tells a story based on facts and provides organizations with numbers that they can use to make decisions. Instead of relying on what you “think” is happening, using data allows you to make decisions based on what you “know” is really happening.

“When we’re looking at data, it helps inform our decisions. Data shows you the picture of what you’re looking at. As human beings we have our own biases. If I come into my own research projects, I’m thinking something might happen, but when I collect my data, I look and think perhaps there’s something different going on.”

Shannon Kerwin
  1. Data helps with efficiency and resource allocation

Lacking enough time or resources can be common barriers for sport organizations. But, using data can help organizations focus on the right thing. And, as a result, data helps them use their time and resources more efficiently and make better decisions.

“…data increases the effectiveness of targeting the right initiative, program or strategy, so that’s key. We know all clubs are working in a space where you don’t have infinite resources so where you allocate the resources becomes so much more important.”

Shannon Kerwin
  1. Data creates stakeholder buy-in

Finally, data has the power to elicit support from stakeholders, including board members, coaches and athletes. Data can be helpful when making immediate changes within an organization. Data can be useful externally too, when applying for grants.

“It helps to create buy-in. Buy-in from parents [or guardians], athletes, coaches, athletic directors, different people in your organization, the board to ensure they’re understanding what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. And even to redirect you if you need to zig and zag which often happens.”

Crystal Watson

Collecting and using data

Person writing evaluation on clipboard.Challenges can arise during the data collection stage. If you’re getting few responses, take a step back and try to understand your target demographic. Then, find the channels that will get their attention, incentivize participants and find ways to keep them engaged.

“We used our social media channels. At the beginning, I was sending emails and it finally dawned on me that if I’m younger than I am, I’m probably not reading all the emails, but if I put something out on Instagram, I’m probably reading that.”

Paula McKenzie

Another approach is to identify influential individuals and turn them into champions to promote participation and change:

“The big thing that worked for us, the reason we could collect so many responses [was] because we had a personal connection within the school. We had a couple of teachers who were going to champion our survey tool and get it approved.”

Crystal Watson

Finally, the sports community can be a great resource. As Kerwin pointed out, community connections within clubs are strong. Reaching out to others can result in support or a referral that will guide you in the right direction.

After collecting data, it’s common for organizations to not know what to do next. The first step in understanding your data, according to Kerwin, is to form a summary. This helps identify trends, challenge or support existing assumptions, and understand what other pieces of data you need to explore or collect. Beginning with a summary lays out the foundation for your next steps.

Using data for gender equity

Upper View of Female Volleyball Player at ServiceAt the end of the webinar, the panelists shared their ideas for using data to realize organizations’ gender-equity goals.

The first step is to understand your organization’s “why.” This can help you understand what you want to achieve as an organization, says Kerwin. As the Same Game toolkit shows, having such a vision for your organization builds the foundation for the next steps, including collecting, analyzing and using data.

Being open-minded is another important element of working with data. Watson emphasized the importance of keeping an open mind and not letting pre-determined expectations or assumptions influence your conclusions.

Finally, McKenzie explained that data doesn’t have to be scary. Although there’s often a steep learning curve to working with data, there are also many resources available. These include academic researchers and peers within the sports community. Working together to share best practices can make working with data fun rather than scary.

Sport organizations are beginning to realize that data is powerful and can have many benefits. Importantly, resources such as the Same Game toolkit can help organizations to start on their data collection and analysis journey. With time, practice, and by leaning on others for support, organizations can start using data to realize a common vision of gender equity.

About the panelists

To learn more about the Engaging Girls and Women in Sport Mini-Series and the webinar panelists, check out the SIRC Expert Webinars page.

About Canadian Women & Sport

Canadian Women & Sport is dedicated to creating an equitable and inclusive Canadian sport and physical activity system that empowers girls and women—as active participants and leaders—within and through sport. With a focus on systemic change, we partner with sport organizations, governments, and leaders to challenge the status quo and build better sport through gender equity.

About the contributor(s)

Annabel Chan is a SIRC volunteer and a medical student at Queen’s University. She graduated from Western University where she studied business and science and played soccer. Through her experience as a student-athlete, she gained a passion for encouraging youth sport participation, particularly among girls and women. She hopes to stay involved in the sports community and incorporate the principles of healthy active living in her future career.

Marina Khonina is a Senior Research Coordinator at SIRC. They hold an MA in Sociology from Simon Fraser University where they studied sporting cultures and women athletes’ relationship with food. With a background in writing and communication, Marina has a special interest in knowledge translation in sport and health sciences. Marina is also a track and field athlete competing in sprinting events.

The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.